Howl’s Moving Castle is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray as part of the Studio Ghibli collection (you can find details on the home video release here).
Synopsis: Sophie, an average teenage girl working in a hat shop, finds her life thrown into turmoil when she is literally swept off her feet by a handsome but mysterious wizard named Howl. But after this chance meeting, the young girl is turned into a 90-year old woman by the vain and conniving Witch of the Waste. Embarking on an incredible adventure to lift the curse, she finds refuge in Howl’s magical moving castle. As the true power of Howl’s wizardry is revealed, and his relationship with Sophie deepens, our young grey heroine finds herself fighting to protect them both from a dangerous war of sorcery that threatens their world. (GKIDS)
Starring: Chieko Baishô, Takuya Kimura, and Tatsuya Gashûin
Writer: Hayao Miyazaki
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Rating: PG (Canada/United States)
Running Time: 120mins
After the success of 2001’s Oscar-winning Spirited Away, Studio Ghibli followed with the Oscar-nominated Howl’s Moving Castle. Just like Spirited Away, it may be a 10+ year old animated film but a lot of it still holds up today. There’s just something about Japanese animation, or anime, that gives it staying power.
The story this time around is about a young woman named Sophie (Baishô) that, after meeting a handsome wizard named Howl (Kimura), is turned into an old woman by the Witch of the Waste (Akihiro Miwa). In an attempt to reverse her curse, she stumbles onto Howl’s moving castle and his companions while becoming embroiled in a magical war between countries. Over time both Sophie and Howl become closer and also fall in love. She felt inadequate because of her appearance but Howl didn’t care and saw her for who she was.
Sophie was an interesting character to watch, being different a different take on the traditional female lead. She did have some fun moments with Howl but mostly with his companions including his young apprentice Markl (Ryûnosuke Kamiki) and a fire demon named Calcifer (Tatsuya Gashûin). With a running time at exactly 2 hours, the film could have been tighter with the story both lagging in the middle and rushing a little too much by the end to try and make up for it which limited the ending’s impact.
Perhaps not as vast as Spirited Away, this film film offers an equally imaginative film world. The moving castle itself acted as another character with the film doing a great job at depicting all of its intricacies. The level of animation was excellent all around, offering plenty of color and detail with its characters and environments. The voice acting was great all around with every character having moments.
Overall, this was a good animated film with the excellent and inventive animation we’ve come to expect from Studio Ghibli and a fun story that meanders in the middle before stumbling towards the end.